Serena Williams admitted that she struggled with her energy level in her semifinal win against Jelena Jankovic. (AP)
ISTANBUL — Sunday’s final of the WTA Championships will feature the two oldest players in the field, as Serena Williams battled through fatigue to defeat Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to face Li Na, who will become the highest-ranked Asian player in tennis history at No. 3 after defeating Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals.
When Li partnered with coach Carlos Rodriguez last fall, their goal was either to win another Slam or get Li to that third ranking in the world. Thanks to an undefeated record through group play this week and her win over Kvitova, Li will leapfrog Maria Sharapova on Monday to finish the season at a career-high No. 3, a credit to her year-long consistency in which she’s made the quarterfinals or better at every non-clay tournament this season.
Now comes the task of beating Serena, who confessed after her three-set win over Jankovic that she’s hit a wall and her gas tank is empty. While her tournament has been fairly straight-forward — she was the only player going into the semifinals who had not played a three-set match — she came into the tournament having played more matches this season than ever. Saturday night’s win moved her year-long tally to 77-4. Prior to this year, she had never played more than 62 matches in any season.